The emotional stress of illness and recovery affects transplant recipients and caregivers. For parent caregivers, caring for your child can strain your relationship. It can be easy to lose touch with your partner when you need that support and connection the most.
Some people develop a deeper appreciation for each other after transplant. But others may feel frustrated or depressed about changes in their relationship. Sometimes one partner is happy with the relationship but the other partner is unhappy.
Start the conversation
Sometimes it’s hard to find the ‘right’ words to share your feelings with your partner. Still, sharing your feelings honestly and with compassion can help strengthen your relationship. You might talk about:
- The good and the bad with a focus on solutions,
- How you’d like things to be, and
- Your own feelings and actions you can take.
Be mindful to:
- Not interrupt your partner. Let them know you’re listening by saying, “I hear you.”
- Use “I” statements instead of “you.” Statements that start with “you” can put people on the defensive. Instead of “You make me feel …” say “I feel (name the emotion) when (name the behavior) and (state what you need to happen).” For example, “I feel hurt when I’m shouted at. It would be helpful if we could talk about our feelings calmly.”
“It’s important for couples to talk about all the changes they’ve been through, how they feel about them, and how they affect their priorities and plans for the future,” says Diane, MPH, BMT Patient Navigator at Be The Match®.
Some questions that can help you and your partner talk about your relationship are:
- How is your communication? Has it changed?
- Do you feel emotionally close, or distant?
- Do you share the same expectations about recovery?
- Do you share the same goals for the future?
- Have your roles changed? How do you feel about that?
- How do you feel about your sexual intimacy? How might you want it to change?
Your sexual health and intimacy is an important part of your recovery and life after transplant. But many people struggle with this after transplant. Intimacy starts with communication.
If you’re in a relationship, talking about your feelings can help build physical intimacy. Explore ways to be intimate with your partner without having sex:
- Give each other a massage
- Tell each other what you love about the other
If you’re single, you may have worries about dating again. Remember, someone who truly cares about you will accept you for who you are and what you’ve been through. When the time feels right, tell your partner about your transplant experience. Some people are ready to share this right way. Others feel more comfortable waiting until they know someone a little better. There’s no right or wrong way to share your experience.
It may be hard for you and your partner to adjust to changes in relationships and intimacy after transplant. You are not alone. And help is available.
Support groups can be safe places to talk about your relationship with others who understand. A licensed social worker can help you talk about issues and find ways to solve problems.
The Be The Match Patient Support Center offers counseling services. We provide one-on-one support by phone to help you and your loved ones cope with transplant and recovery.